July 2006

Change all around

When you see something every day, it’s all too easy to miss subtle changes.

I just returned after a couple weeks’ absence, and noticed several substantial differences just in the short time I was away. On the turnpike, an old bank building at Jefferson Avenue — it was Heritage Federal a decade or more ago — has now been cleaned up and transformed into a new bank.

It looks a lot better.

Further east, the new apartments along Emory Valley Road near SAIC have absolutely sprung out of the ground, seemingly on their own, since I left. This is also great news for Oak Ridge, since we don’t have much in the way of upscale starter residences for young professionals, or a place for people to live while they build.

These new projects are definitely an encouraging sign. I’m also looking forward to visiting the new Sonic on Illinois, since it means I don’t have to drive to the other side of town to get a positively decadent chocolate malt — an infrequent indulgence, but a treasured one nonetheless.

Resources

AtomicTumor commented on the previous post that he fears a chilling in the web community… fear not. There are some wonderful resources out there:

Keep on Blogging!

Also, see “Libel in the Blogosphere: Some Preliminary Thoughts” by Glenn Reynolds, UT Law Professor and blogger extraordinaire (Instapundit).

And here is where I contemplate these weighty issues. You can tell it’s really troubling me, can’t you?

Fear Factor?

Is a $1.75 million lawsuit scarier than one for $25,000? Only if you lose.

Libel is the publication of false and defamatory statements, presented as fact. Where public figures are concerned, there must also be proven “actual malice.”

In other words, you have to publish statements presented as fact that you know to be false, with the intent of doing harm to the person in question. It doesn’t include statements of opinion, just statements presented as fact.

The LetsTalkFrank.com website that generated the threat of a $1.75 million libel suit simply contains public records on file in Anderson County, primarily from the Sheriff’s Department. No claim was made as to the veracity of the statements in the public record, but in my opinion, the women who made those statements had little to gain – and much to lose – by going up against the Probation Director who was in a position to make their lives much more difficult.

Also a matter of public record is the arrest of Beauchamp’s attorney, Michael Wayne Ritter, for DUI on May 9, as published in the Oak Ridger. And his censure by the Tennessee Board of Professional Responsibility in August, 2004. [Hat tip to anotherthing2]

Personally, I wholeheartedly agree with David Stuart that the TBI file should be made public now. The central figure in this investigation is heavily involved in campaigns of several people up for election next Thursday, and the outcome of this election will undoubtedly influence the power wielded by someone with serious ethical allegations outstanding.

LetsTalkFrank.com is up to 4,872 visits and counting — a number bolstered by 350 or so just since the appearance of the most recent Oak Ridger story. All those press releases about lawsuits are driving traffic so fast that it soon won’t matter whether they succeed in getting the site host to take it down… every voter in the county will have already seen it.

A Must-Read Letter:

Of all the letters to the editor this campaign season, today’s Oak Ridger contains one that must be read — it’s the last of several today.

The writer is Melissa Martin, who served as (retired) Judge Buddy’s Scott’s judicial assistant for the last 15 years. The lady brings credentials to the arguments about cases heard, for she was involved on a daily basis in the scheduling.

In particular, the following two paragraphs caught my attention:

The true reason for the small number of jury trials is they were not asked for and scheduled by their [Ramsey’s]office. Criminal cases were resolved by plea bargaining and often with victims in the courtroom upset over the lenient punishment of the plea bargain that had been offered by the assistant district attorney general assigned to cover the Criminal Court. Defense attorneys often expressed to me what great deals they could get for their clients in Anderson County.

In the few criminal cases that were set for a jury trial, the attorney general’s assistant would offer the defendant a better deal at the last minute to avoid trial. If Judge Scott turned down a plea, the justice system was punished by non-aggressive prosecution by the attorney general’s office. Two pleas that involved the deaths of the victims are now pending before the Tennessee Supreme Court because Judge Scott would not accept such inadequate punishment for defendants that took a life.

If, as prosecutor-in-chief, he proved adept in ensuring avoidance of corrections; just how bad might he be as a judge with the same ethic?

Ramsey’s jerking around the efforts to form a drug court — an avenue that has proven very successful in reducing repeat offenses, as well as being more cost-effective for the public — still bothers me. I cannot understand his motivation in the least.

Thank goodness August 3rd is just around the corner.

Sad News…

I learned just this morning of Marshall Whisnant’s passing on Saturday night. It is yet another crushing loss for Oak Ridge; his service on the planning commission, the education foundation, and various business and civic organizations was legendary.

For me, Marshall was a source of inspiration, of perseverance, a ready smile and always a touch of humor. A few years ago, my husband and I would play tennis on Sunday afternoons (when the courts were least crowded, in order to not disturb those more proficient than ourselves). Marshall was frequently sitting on the porch watching, always ready with a cheer in the unlikely event that I pulled off an ace or managed to drop a ball just barely over the net and out of reach.

Losing “Big Dave” Bolling, Larry Dickens, and now Marshall in the space of a few months has been tough. As our county and our town face future challenges, I’ll always ask myself what they would have done.

Now, it’s up to the rest of us to summon the courage and leadership to move the community forward in the selfless, but passionate way of those who went before us.

Rest well, dear friend. I know I’ll see you again.

Courier News

We often complain in Oak Ridge that we don’t get much coverage of Anderson County government. It may be true that many don’t care — but it may also be true that it’s hard to care about that of which you have little (if any) information.

The Clinton Courier News unquestionably provides the most coverage of county government, and for a time I subscribed for that purpose. However, I got the news a couple of days late, since the paper arrived by mail. I’ve found it’s more efficient just to buy one, since it’s not available online.

Today’s edition contains the paper’s endorsements, notable because that paper most closely covers the County government and thus would probably have the most information to work with. It’s worth picking up a copy, available at Rocky Top Markets and several other locations in Oak Ridge.

Endorsed are Dave Clark for District Attorney, Bill Lantrip for Chancellor, David Stuart for General Sessions Judge, April Meldrum for Juvenile Court Judge, and Bill White for Sheriff.

I think this may be the first time that Ron Bridgeman and I have agreed on selections for every office — at least every office for which he offered an opinion. Regardless of knowing the outcome in advance, pick up a copy and read it for yourself: Bridgeman provides a well-reasoned explanation for each of his picks.

Sounds like it got a little hot at the fair last night, from eyewitness reports. Some of those not endorsed seemed to wilt.

Let’s Talk Frankly

If you haven’t read it yet in the dead tree editions, you should soon. I’ve confirmed ownership of the domain www.LetsTalkFrank.com to four local newspapers in a statement that reads as follows:

I accept responsibility for the creation and content of www.letstalkfrank.com, a domain name that I have owned for about five years – since before the inception of the television show of the same name, with which I have no association.

The documents posted on the site are public record, and I have done nothing wrong in making this information more readily available to the public that it is intended to serve. While it would very likely be possible to quash the subpoena and remain anonymous, I choose to come forward at this point to avoid further suspicion and accusations against those who had nothing to do with – and were unaware of until after the fact – the publishing of this website.

The lawsuit filed is of a frivolous nature, intended to intimidate and harass me. However, the evolving political machine in Anderson County is far more disturbing to me than the threat of a libel suit and the resulting personal publicity.

There are candidates on the August ballot for powerful offices – sheriff, judges, and district attorney – who are or may be indebted to someone under reasonable suspicion of wrongdoing and abuse of power.

In shedding my anonymity I expose myself to possible retaliation, but do so in hope that the citizens of Anderson County will recognize the gravity of the choices to be made on August 3rd and elect officeholders who will enforce, prosecute, and rule based upon law rather than political favors owed.

So for all those who were pointing toward various candidates in the August election as having done so, they didn’t. They didn’t even know about it until after it was published. Because the campaigning has gotten rough — or perhaps because the facts themselves are rather raw — the temptation existed to blame it on election-time politics.

Don’t fall for that trick. Politics, American-style, has always been a bit rough-and-tumble, but we must be careful to see beyond the billboards, slick slogans, and catchy campaign themes.

Evaluate the quality of the individual whose name is on the ballot, his or her fitness to serve, and look closely (beyond political parties or professed lack of such) at the alliances that person has formed. If they seem to be connected to someone who does not have the County’s best interest at heart, you should probably think long and hard about what’s in it for them.

What next?

Chillin’

If anyone has wondered why I haven’t continued punching the buttons of folks running for local office lately, just ponder the picture to the left.

If this was what you looked at every evening over supper (and breakfast, for that matter), would you bother wondering what the local miscreants are up to?

Nah. Anotherthing2 is covering it quite nicely. That’s where I go to see what’s really going on in my absence.

But I know that at least one of her/his questions is bound to be answered in the next day or two.

At right, Delta and Dog are enjoying a calm surf; it isn’t always so. On Monday, the undertow was so strong it swept Gamma, Delta and me all out past where we could touch the sand. Way past.

Lifeguard training from decades ago kicked in, and we all returned to shore safely. However, it was definitely time to stay shallow at that point.

And eat ice cream.

I do still care what’s going on at home, but at this point, it’s up to all of us to vote and put the best people in office. People who haven’t spent the last eight years building a political machine, sometimes crossing party lines but always extending the protection of government to certain individuals in a perversion of the American political system.

Sometimes I do have to wonder what sort of dirty laundry Beauchamp has on these elected officials to make them put up with his shenanigans.

Stay tuned.

Is Nobody Listening?

Either nobody is reading this blog (and I know well that some do), or someone from Layton’s camp thought he’d try my patience today.

20 minutes ago, I left to pick up Gamma from her golf lesson and all was well. We made a quick stop at Weigels for an icee and when we returned, someone put a Layton sign in my yard.

Grrrr!

Tidbits

In a letter to the editor yesterday (5th one down, “Ramsey’s campaign ad called ‘a lie'”) , County Commission candidate Sharon Prince notes that a picture in one of Ramsey’s ads features — implying the support of — several distinguished gentlemen, three of whom are deceased.

One of those is the writer’s late husband, and her statement that the late Chancellor never supported Ramsey seems entirely credible.

It makes me wonder if Ramsey borrowed from Ophelia Ford’s playbook.

* * *

There’s a brand new local blog in town, on David Stuart’s campaign website (www.DavidStuartforJudge.com). I’d like to see more local candidates take up blogging… more local people altogether, for that matter.

Interestingly, several of the local print media folks have indicated that they do surf the blogosphere, which may be positive for the survival of their industry. Stan Mitchell, publisher of the Oak Ridge Observer, earned an even higher level of respect from me when he asked permission to quote from one of my posts.

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